Stacey Livingstone effectively sledged Tayla Harris live on TV last Sunday. Picture: Getty
Stacey Livingstone effectively sledged Tayla Harris live on TV last Sunday. Picture: Getty

Best sledger in AFLW revealed

THE humble sledge has been part of footy for as long as the game has been played - some players are renowned for it, the "sledgends' of the game.

Some do it deliberately to get under their opponent's skin, while others do it sporadically. I've always thought if you resort to sledging it's more a reflection on your own ability.

I'll put my hand up and say I'm not good at sledging. Anyone who's played on me knows I'm pretty quiet. I mumble a bit but if anything is said it's under my breath and far enough away that my opponent can't hear.

That basically means I don't get sledged - I think it's one of those things you either cop or you don't. The only thing that guarantees getting sledged is if you dish it out, then you're fair game.

When I do get sledged it catches me off guard - it's like, what are you doing? It's funny but also weird. If someone tries to say something I don't even know what to do.

I was sledged during a VFLW game by a player who had just been signed for AFLW but hadn't played a game at that level yet.

She said something about AFLW but retracted pretty quickly after I reasoned with her and said "you only just got signed last week. Come on".

She can kick goals but Darcy Vescio says she not good at sledging. Picture: Getty
She can kick goals but Darcy Vescio says she not good at sledging. Picture: Getty

She apologised and said she was only messing around. I think she thought I was taking it to heart, but I wasn't. I didn't really care.

I've always thought sledging is risky, especially in women's footy because there's a lot of player movement and a sledge could come back to bite you, but also because we're a tight knit group/community.

I just want to focus on the second point for a second because it's relevant to state, especially given it's Pride Round this weekend, that there are players who play either on the same or opposing teams as their partner. That also means there are many ex-relationships floating around so you need to tread carefully.

Some players do suffer from white line fever, though, and in the heat of the moment they might not have control over what comes out of their mouth.

But there are three main topics off limits when it comes to sledging in women's footy:

1. Partners and families 2. Sexuality 3. Body-shaming.

Also off-limits are the obvious ones - race/skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or identity and special ability/disability. None of that is sledging, it's straight up abuse.

One of women's footy's "Sledgends" is Shae Audley, my former Carlton teammate, who I also played a lot of footy against in VFLW.

Darcy Vescio (back) with (L-R) Aliesha Newman, Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Ellie Blackburn as they celebrate the AFLW  Pride Round.
Darcy Vescio (back) with (L-R) Aliesha Newman, Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Ellie Blackburn as they celebrate the AFLW Pride Round.

She nails it and has always been one of the biggest yappers. Her sledges are good - she's funny but knows where the line is and never crosses it. She also has a booming and distinct voice, so she's hard to miss.

She was once sledging Katie Brennan, who I was playing for Darebin with, yelling at her while she was having a set shot, so I stepped in front of her and slowly put the back of my head against her mouth - it wasn't a headbutt by any stretch, but it muffled what she was saying.

I also remember when Daisy Pearce and I were playing against Shae's Diamond Creek, Daisy said Shae was being 'dis-audley', which was obviously a play on the word disorderly.

I thought that was really funny. She copped some of her own treatment back.

It's been an interesting week for AFLW - we basically saw a post-game sledge broadcast live on TV when Collingwood's Stacey Livingstone branded my teammate Tayla Harris "useless" at ground level.

The comment obviously got a lot of attention because it was raw and not what the footy world is used to hearing from players.

Usually, players talk up their opponent or shift the attention. But Livingstone just let rip. She probably repeated what she had been told leading into the game by her coaches. I think it was just a little clumsy and not something she genuinely believes.

Ex-Bulldogs coach Paul Groves also made headlines when he gave his former player, Bulldog-turned-Demon Libby Birch a whack on Twitter, labelling her the "most selfish player I've ever coached" after she said in an interview "cracks were appearing" at her former club.

That was unprecedented.

As AFLW players, we're often applauded for being real, honest and avoiding cliches. While those two examples from the weekend are possibly on the extreme end of the scale, it's great to see players speak so openly.

Incidents such as these create tension between teams and ultimately help build rivalries, which is fantastic for our growing game.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens the next time we play Collingwood and when Birch faces her old Bulldogs teammates again.

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